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BREXIT

Carte de séjour: France launches website for British citizens to apply for residency

The new French government website that allows British people to apply online for residency has launched. Here's what we know about it.

Carte de séjour: France launches website for British citizens to apply for residency
You could apply online for residency in France. Photo: fbxx/Depositphotos

UPDATE: This was the site for use in a no-deal Brexit. There is now a different system in place, click here for the latest information.

 

The French government on Wednesday launched its new online portal that allows British citizens who are already living in France to begin the process of applying for their residency status.

The site allows British people to apply online for the residency papers they will need once Britain leaves the EU, and is only available to people are are already legally resident in France.

Launched with little fanfare, the site is now live on the French government portal here.

READ ALSO France's new carte de séjour site – how does it work and what do I need?

The website was launched as part of France's preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The Local understands the website is in a test phase and changes may be made if problems are reported.

The opening page of the platform, which is in both English and French, contains a message that explains what Britons need to do and presumes Britain's exit date from the EU will be October 31st and they it will be a no-deal Brexit. It makes no mention of what happens if there is a Brexit extension.

“Having a residence permit will be mandatory as of October 31st, 2020 for all people over the age of 18. Until October 31st, 2020, your rights in terms of residency, employment as well as all of your social rights will continue,” it reads.

“You will have a six-month period as of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal date (i.e. until 04/30/2020) in order to request a residence permit.”

Under a no-deal Brexit France will give British citizens a year to obtain a residency permit but they must apply within six months.

Applicants are instructed they need to scan and upload a copy of their passport as well as several documents and then they will receive a confirmation email.

They will then be sent an email to make an appointment at their local prefecture to arrange “fingerprinting, photo and proof of fee payment”. The residence permit will then be sent out to home addresses in France.

READ ALSO LATEST The ultimate no-deal checklist for Britons in France

The Local understands that the British Embassy, who have been working closely with the Interior Minister on issues around residency, were taken aback by Wednesday's launch.

 
A spokesperson for the embassy in Paris told The Local on Wednesday that officials were working with their French counterparts at the Interior Ministry to help prepare the best guidance for how Brits in France can use the online platform.
 
“We urge people not to panic because there will still be six months after Brexit to apply for a residency permit,” the spokesman told The Local.
 
In the case of a no-deal Brexit, British people will have a grace period of a year, but must get their applications in within six months. If there is a deal there will be a transition period that lasts until December 2020.
 
Citizens rights groups in France were also left confused by the sudden launch.
 
Justine Wallington from Remain in France Together (RIFT) said: “Frankly, I think it's premature. I'm not entirely sure what purpose it serves to release it already when we don't yet know if there will be a deal or not.
 
“There could also be an extension to the Brexit deadline. We have approached the embassy and requested clarification.”
 
The website was announced last month by French prime minister Edouard Philippe and is intended to take some of the pressure off the local préfectures who until earlier this year had been processing residency applications from British people.
 
Many had become completely swamped with applications as it is estimated that there are more than 150,000 British people living in France, the vast majority of whom do not have a settled residential status.
 
READ ALSO 
 
While the initial application will be made online under the new system, each application will still be passed on to local authorities where the applicant lives for it to be evaluated.

People who have been living here for more than five years and already have a carte de séjour permenant can simply swap it for the new card, everyone else – including people who have no card and people who have the short-term 5-year card – has to make a completely new application using this site.

“The residence permits obtained before the United Kingdom’s withdrawal date from the EU will remain valid for one year. They will need to be exchanged during this period, including permanent residence permits,” the website says.

Part of the confusion around the site is what exactly people will be applying for, as there are different residency deals depending on whether Britain leaves the EU with or without a deal.

There are also fears that the sheer number of people trying to access the site will lead to it crashing.

But the most important thing to remember is that there is no tearing hurry and no need to panic if all your documents are not to hand right this second.

If Britain leaves the EU with no deal then Brits get a one-year grace period to sort out their residency status – although applications must be made within six months of Brexit day. If the UK leaves with a deal there will be a transition period that will last until at least December 2020.

So although it's good to get things ready, there really is no need to panic.

If you have used the site, please share your experiences here.

 

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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